The Casual Runner

Top 5 Tips – Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Top 5 Things You Need to Know for the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Last year we brought you the Walt Disney World Marathon Preview and Tips in the weeks leading up to your race(s) at Walt Disney World. This year we’re stepping up our game by giving you the five things you need to know to have a Dopey filled Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend!

So let’s get down to it…

5) Pack More Than You Think You’ll Need

You should already have begun packing especially if you’re coming out to celebrate New Years Eve at the parks before the race weekend. Make sure you have plenty of park clothes and comfortable shoes. Many of our readers will be running some major miles this weekend and the last thing you’ll want is feet that hurt from walking around the parks.

It’s also important that you pack for all types of weather this time of year in Florida. We’ve run multiple races during this weekend and they have been completely different each time. We’ve had temperatures in the thirties to pouring down rain to extreme heat. You’ll never know what you’ll get, so make sure you have plenty of outfit choices to choose from.  Bonus tip: The backside of the half marathon course sends you down World Drive. At this time of year, many of you will be running directly into the sun. It is a good idea, if possible, to consider a pair of sunglasses or a hat with a brim on it that compliments your race costume to help shield your eyes, you’ll thank me for this one.

For the marathon course you may want to consider this as well. Running on Osceola Drive can put you in direct sunlight too.

4) Survive the Expo

The Expo will be insane on opening day…imagine Black Friday with all runDisney items. Get there hours before open or wait until the next day to go! Unless you have a special piece of merchandise you’re seeking out there is no need to go to the expo on the first day unless you’re running the 5K or Dopey. The expo opens Wednesday January 3rd at 12pm and crowds will thin out as the weekend goes on. Of course, if you want to go at the opening of the first day for the thrill of the hunt or the entertainment value, have at it!
Also remember this is an anniversary year for the Marathon and Dopey, which hopefully means some awesome merchandise. It also means it will be in demand merchandise especially for those who are perfect Dopeys. I highly advise if you are running Dopey and want merchandise you should be at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports before 10am to try to get to the front of the line. 

Check out our tips for surviving a runDisney race expo.

3) Running Isn’t the Hardest Part of the Weekend

Anyone who has run multiple races in one weekend at Walt Disney World will tell you running isn’t the hardest part of the weekend. The hardest part is by far the early morning wake up calls. Depending on where you’re staying and/or extent of elaborate costumes many people are getting up at 2:30am for a 5:30am race. As a former Dopey runner I promise the hardest part of 48.6 miles is getting up at 3am four days in a row.

For the half marathon and marathon there is a good half a mile walk to the start line. It is highly advised you be to the pre race area an hour before starting time. The 5K and 10K start where the pre race party is so getting there a half hour before starting time should be good.

It appears this year at least for the half marathon and marathon there will be waves starts in each coral. It’s impossible to know where they will separate people in their corals to let them start the race. If you’re concerned about finishing the race before the balloon ladies I would suggest getting to your coral as soon as it opens to make sure you are in the first wave of people that get to go.

Know your body and how much sleep you need before a race. It’s fun to stay out playing in the parks from rope drop to fireworks but the night before a half marathon or marathon I highly advise against doing this.

2) Characters Galore

One of the best parts of running at Disney are all of the photo opportunities. Not only can you get a photo in front of all the park icons but there are so many characters along the course!

There are some rare photo opportunities on race courses that can never be found anywhere else. In the past I’ve seen Jack, Sally, and Oogie Boogie all together, all the villains in one location, and even George Sanderson from Monster’s Inc (and no we don’t mean our favorite CosRunner, Jake).

Character lines can get very long on the course, which can lead to you being swept if you wait in too many of them. Pick and choose wisely. Unless I see a stop I absolutely want I tend to hold off on stopping for pictures until I get past ESPNs Wide World of Sports. At this point there is less than ten miles left and I can figure out if my stops will still allow me to finish.

1) SMO Celebration!

Wear your medals to the parks! 

Embrace the clank (that all-too-familiar sound where your multiple race medals  clank against one another as you walk around the parks). A great fast pass to make is at Epcot to meet Mickey and friends so you can get pictures with the characters featured on the medals. If you’re running Dopey make sure to get your pictures before and after the races at the start and finish lines because that will be your only chance to do so.

Our good friend Jason had an excellent idea last year for character photos that made it so he didn’t have to walk around a park or wait in lines. He decided to made a Chef Mickey reservation that featured all the medal characters (besides Dopey). This meant less time on his feet after the races.

Bonus Tip – Cigna Runs Together

We feel it is important to let all of our readers heading to Florida all about the Walt Disney World Marathon Race Weekend sponsor, Cigna.

Cigna does an excellent job of hosting this weekend.  Make sure you check out their booth at the expo to “Know Your Numbers.”  They also tend to have some great freebies at their expo booth as well.

Cigna Runs Together is not just another catchy hashtag.  Many Cigna employees run the events during the race weekend.  Don’t worry you’ll be able to spot them along the course with their matching shirts!  We have found them to be awesome support along the course to their fellow runners, so much so that we felt the need to make them our bonus tip for the weekend.

Make sure to check back in the weeks to come as we share with you Cigna’s tips for Nutrition, Training Tips, and Preventive Care.

I look forward to seeing all of my favorite Dopey runners soon!  If you see Mike or myself out there make sure you say hi!  You may see me at all four races in matching costumes with Helene and Ashley.

We have even more great articles to get you ready to run during Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend!

2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Preview Pluto’s Walt Disney World 5K: Mike’s 2015 Race Recap, Jennifer’s 2015 Race Recap, All-along the course video
Minnie Mouse’s Walt Disney World 10K: 2015 Race Review, All-along the course video
 Donald Duck’s Walt Disney World Half Marathon: Mike’s 2015 Race Recap, Jennifer’s 2015 Race Recap, 2016 Race Review, 2015 All-along the course video, 2016 All-along the course video, 2017 Remarkable Runners
Mickey Mouse’s Walt Disney World Marathon:
2014 WDW Marathon Review (Part 1 & Part 2), 
2015 WDW Marathon Review (Part 1 & Part 2), 
2016 WDW Marathon Review (Part 1 & Part 2), 
2017 WDW Marathon Review (Part 1 & Part 2),
All-along the course video
2016 WDW Marathon Weekend: Final Thoughts, Changes & Improvements
2017 WDW Marathon Weekend: Final Thoughts, Changes & Improvements
Casual Runner Trivia Challenge: runDisney WDW Edition
Cigna: Disney Scavenger Hunt Adventure


Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!